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Three different answers to one question:

“What does a communicant receive in the Lord’s Supper?”

According to "Reformed"                Bread only
churches (Protestant but               Wine only
not Lutheran)                          "Representation"

According to the Roman                 Body only
Catholic Church                        Blood only 

According to confessional               Bread Body
Lutheran churches                      Wine Blood
                                       "Real Presence"
What did Jesus really mean when He said “This is my body” as He gave the Lord’s Supper to His disciples?

Reformed churches (such as Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians) as well as Pentecostal and Holiness bodies teach that in the Lord’s Supper the bread and wine merely represent Christ’s body and blood–in other words, they are only symbols.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches Transubstantiation. This means that during the “mass” — the Catholic rite of communion — the bread and wine physically change into Christ’s body and blood, and are no longer bread and wine. Catholics further teach that their mass is a re-sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood to pay for sins.

Confessional Lutheran churches (those Lutherans who are still true to the Scriptures) teach that in the Lord’s Supper bread and wine are received by the participants. They are not changed physically, yet Christ’s true body and His true blood are also present. They are present in a miraculous way which is beyond our powers of human reason. (It is important to note that Lutherans do not teach anything about a re-sacrifice for sin — Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary was a final and all-sufficient payment for all sins.)

Which of these three differing views is Scriptural?

Note the simple words of Christ: “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (Lk. 22:19). “He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Mt. 26:27-28).

But could it not be allowed that Christ’s meaning was something like “this represents my body . . . my blood”? First of all, the usage of the original Greek does not permit this interpretation. Secondly, other Scripture passages do not support this theory, but rather speak against it. Paul speaks of a real “communion” (or sharing) in Christ’s body and blood, given together with bread and wine: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16)

It is not only believers who receive Jesus’ body and blood in communion, but also those who do not believe — but they receive it for their harm! “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Cor. 11:29). This shows that the Lord’s body IS truly there, whether the communicant perceives it or not. If our belief were that the bread and wine were only symbols, the true value of communion would be lost to us. We would not be “discerning” partakers at all!

When we rightly discern Christ’s real body and blood in the sacrament, along with the bread and wine, our faith in His redemptive work for us is strengthened. It is not merely an ordinance of the Lord that we obey. Rather, it is a means of grace, a special way in which God imparts forgiveness and faith to us. It is a strengthening of faith that says “Christ gave His body and shed His blood for ME, personally.”

There are many aspects of the doctrine of the Real Presence that strain our sense of reason and logic. But when reason and logic contradict God’s Word, we can well do without them. When God’s Word is clear, we should become like little children in our faith, and take Christ’s words as they stand: “This is my body . . . this is my blood.”

–Bruce Naumann